Woodson admitted he’s “not in Phil’s category,” and that’s fine. Nobody’s in Phil’s category.
Truth is, Woodson has been a much better coach of the Knicks than D’Antoni ever was, and so far that’s been good enough for smart basketball fans in a smart basketball town. But that changes if the Lakers land another big free agent, Phil Jackson, and if Jackson gets to No. 12 before Woodson even sniffs No. 1.
I’m being admittedly a little unfair to the basic tenor of this article, as O’Connor is mostly complimentary of the job Mike Woodson has been doing, but somehow the premise that should Phil Jackson return to the Lakers, Woodson will therefore be judged against Jackson’s results is a little irritating.
I understand the instinct, given that it’s now clear that Jackson could have been persuaded to take the plunge, and there’s certainly no fault in the logic that the Knicks would have been wise to gauge Jackson’s interest in a return before ultimately going with Woodson. After all, when the greatest coach in league history is available, a phone call is probably never a terrible idea. But should Jackson return and guide the Lakers to another championship that really has little relevance to how Woodson fares this season with the Knicks. It’s not a straight line from “He won with the Lakers, so therefore had he coached the Knicks, they would have won instead.” It doesn’t really work like that.
Also, I know this is silly, and the odds are I’d abandon these old grievances after Jackson’s first win on the Knicks bench, but as someone who came of age with the Knicks of the 1990’s, Phil Jackson basically destroyed my childhood. The thought of having to actually cheer him on fills me with dread. What’s next, Reggie Miller as the GM? Rik Smits calling the games? That part of me was a little thrilled I didn’t have to face that reality.
As for the Lakers, I don’t think Mike Brown is a particularly great coach, but it’s truly bizarre to fire him after five games. If they had that little faith in the guy, you wonder why he was given the reins in the first place. My favorite question in the wake of the move was, “Is it a panic move?” No, clearly it was the result of a long and thoughtful process. I think I’ve seen people with their hair on fire show more patience (Ed note: I have not actually ever seen anyone with their hair on fire, but you can imagine if I did).
For Jackson’s part, it is just another example of how hard it is for elite competitors to go find anything else they’ll find even remotely satisfying. Jackson seemed genuinely eager to move on to the next phase of his life, until immediately finding that whatever that was exactly was nowhere near as awesome as being the head coach of the Lakers. As someone who’s never been the head coach of the Lakers, I can definitely attest that it’s not as good.